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BizTalk Server 2009 : Playing By The Rules? Use The Business Rule Engine - The Business Rule Composer

6/10/2013 4:21:50 AM
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The Business Rule Composer, illustrated in Figure 1, is the environment used by business rule authors to create, update, version, publish, and deploy vocabularies and policies. Policy authors may also test their policies using the testing tool in the Business Rule Composer and review the execution output as well as error messages in the Output window. As mentioned earlier, creating the required vocabularies is necessary before the rule creation, as the vocabulary needs to be published before it can be used in a rule. However, if you like to create your rules top down, you can get around this by simply creating all the business rules with fake arguments using the taxonomy of your domain, then start creating the vocabulary following that nomenclature. The drawback here of course is that you will not be able to save your policy unless you add and publish the vocabulary and update the rules with the right facts.

Figure 1. The Business Rule Composer


Multiple users of the Business Rule Composer can connect to the shared rule store at the same time. However, the Business Rule Composer does not prevent users from overwriting each other's work. Potentially, a user could see a policy or a vocabulary that is out of sync because another user may have modified the policy or vocabulary.


1. Creating Vocabularies

Even if building a vocabulary is not your immediate concern, you should know how to work with the Facts Explorer, as most of the tasks there apply to rule development. You can use the XML Schemas, Databases, and .NET Classes tabs to construct names and drag them into conditions and actions in the Rule Editor (Woodgate, 2005). Although you can add facts directly from the XML Schemas, Databases, or .NET Classes tabs to your rules, it is not advisable to do so. This greatly impedes the readability of the business rules and thus their future portability. One of the main advantages of using a Business Rule Engine is to abstract and package the business rules that are valuable assets to the IT organization in a highly manageable and portable format. Introducing facts from different data sources directly into the business rules creates a dependency between the business rules and those data sources and hinders the readability of those rules. It is therefore advisable to create a vocabulary to represent the facts in a nomenclature relevant to the business rules' domain. While defining different vocabulary items, the user has the choice to select the item type as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Vocabulary Definition Wizard

To create a vocabulary item based on a .NET class member, the .NET assembly containing that class has to be deployed to the Global Assembly Cache (GAC). The assembly needs to be deployed to the GAC to ensure that the rule engine can always get to the class definition at runtime.

If you are not able to pass the required messages to a business policy execution from within an orchestration, ensure that the XML document type specified while creating the vocabulary item is valid. The Business Rule Composer is in the habit of simply adding the document type instead of the fully qualified type name prefixed with all the namespaces if any.


2. Creating Rules

Creating a policy to encapsulate related rules is the first task in rule creation. If you are updating the rules in the policy or adding onto the existing rules of an already published version of the policy instead of simply creating a new version and starting from scratch, copy the latest version of the policy you need to update and paste it as a new policy version. To create policy rules, you can drag and drop predicates and vocabulary items from the Facts Explorer into the IF pane to create conditions and drag and drop functions and vocabulary items into the THEN pane to create actions. If required, different priorities can be assigned to different rules to affect the order of their actions' execution upon their successful evaluation. Applications executing deployed policies will execute the latest version of the policy by default. However, they may explicitly execute a particular version of the policy instead.

If you redefine a particular vocabulary item in a new version of a policy, the rules will not pick up the latest version. Rules are explicitly bound to the vocabulary item that was dragged and dropped on the action or condition. This means that if you update your vocabulary, you need to manually update the rules to use the new version of the vocabulary.

 
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